Friday, May 11, 2012

So you want to get involved - now what?

I do a lot of outreach all over the skeptical world, trying to explain this project.  I'm always surprised to find people who have never heard of this project, and why editing Wikipedia is even important.  But I'm sure there is a lot of educating I need to do.

So every few days or so I get an email from someone who asks "how can I help?" and each time I write up a special email just for them telling them how to help.  I haven't been keeping really good count but it seems that at least half never respond again.  And of those that do respond maybe a half again only get as far as making a Wikipedia account, then they drop off the face of the Earth.

I'm left with about 25% of people who follow through.  And that is really cool because that is really want we need, people who don't flake and are here because they want to be here, understand the project and are enjoying themselves.

To all the people who don't pan out, thanks for your interest. Please remember us with a kind heart and maybe someday you will have the desire to become involved.

<quick story> - One woman that is a member of CFI, heard about this project because she saw a notice about a Cafe Inquiry lecture I was about to give.  She wasn't interested, but remembered it.  Then she went to an event (that shall not be named because I don't want to draw attention to it right now).  She was amazed at what was happening to the Wikipedia page for that event, she tried to edit it but quickly got over her head and was nearly banned.  She remembered me,  Lei and I got onto it and managed to eventually get the page into shape.  The woo crowd was using it as a platform to support their side.  The woman who first drew my attention to the page still writes to me with updates and totally supports us.  She does not have to become an editor to totally "get it" and has done a lot to help.  </end story>

So you think you want to help with the project as an editor.  Here are the steps you need to take, as well as what to expect.

1. you need to open up a Wikipedia account.  Here is an excellent blog from Tim Farley giving easy instructions. 

2. Read this blog.  You don't have to read everything, but I expect that you will "get it" and should understand the project.

3. Go to Wikipedia and click on everything blue you see.  All the links at the top, bottom and sides.  You don't have to completely understand what you see, but you should be aware of these options.

4. Write back to me with your Wikipedia account name.  You should also friend me on Facebook (Susan Gerbic)  I'm going to ask you what you want to do.  I don't tell people what to edit, you need to decide. This is another reason why you need to read the blog.  There are a ton of ideas all over the place.

If you just want to hang out and edit here and there, that is useful and great training.  Here is another blog by Tim Farley that teaches you how to do this

When you are ready to start editing more difficult pieces, and/or re-write a page then you will know when you are ready.  No one is going to assign a task for you (if you really push we might steer you somewhere) and I or some of my other editors will step in if you are overwelmed, and provide assistance whenever you need.

What we do not want you trying to do is to write a new Wikipedia page, that can take months to do correctly and will need thought and feedback.  Yes, it is possible to throw up a page in a few minutes, but that is not what we advocate.  We launch our pages and re-writes all in one swoop to create excitement and get people interested in the before and afters.  We also try to get the newly launched page on the front page of Wikipedia as a Did You Know? project.  We have also found that sometimes people think they will come back to the page they published, and then do not.  No one wants more orphans roaming Wikipedia, we have enough stubs as it is. 

We also do not advocate jumping into a thorny editing mess that is highly watched by believers and skeptics.  Some pages are careful balancing acts that though months of discussion have reached a consistence with the editors.  No one wants a new zealot editor to charge in and start changing things around.  If you want to edit pages like $cientology, Mormans, medicine, astrology, global warming, evolution and Jesus Christ, well more power to you.  Please approach me first and lets talk about having realistic expectations.

I do want everyone to know that a lot is going on behind the scenes, several highy-trafficked pages that are carefully watched by both sides are even now being changed to reflect more scientific thinking.  I can't write about the changes as this blog is very public and I don't want edit wars.  Just know that we really need all kinds of help, and though this project is only one-year old, a ton has already been done and lots more planned.  This is an exciting time to help.


  1. Hi,

    I'm just back from the 6th world Skeptics Congress at Berlin. I might have talk about your work and website. I truly apologize, it will happen again.

    Hope to see you at the 7th World Skeptics congress.

    1. Thank you Peter.

      Very jealous that you got to go.

      Kylie Sturguss uploaded a few pictures of speakers to Wiki Commons during her downtime. Which allowed me to update new photos on Ray Hyman, Chris French as well as a new image on Kylie's page.

      All that helps. Don't wait a whole year to get involved. Please read through the blog and see if it inspires you to pick a project.

      I especially need people who can read/write a language other than English to work on pages.

      As I said above, this is a really exciting project and an exciting time to be involved.

  2. Hi,

    Sorry to be so late, hope the party is not over ;). I may be interested to give you a hand. What have you in mind? (just for the record: I'm speaking/read/write french and English, and speak/read German since I was born there).

    e-mail to "", "@", "peter"